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Key findings
  • Zimbabweans are pessimistic about national conditions. More than seven in 10 citizens (72%) believe the country is going in “the wrong direction,” up from 60% in 2017.
  • Citizens’ top concerns are related to the economy: Management of the economy (cited by 45% of respondents) and unemployment (43%) are the most important problems that Zimbabweans want their government to address.
  • Only about two in 10 citizens (22%) are optimistic that the country’s economy will improve over the next 12 months.
  • The share of respondents who describe their personal living conditions as bad has increased by 21 percentage points since 2012, to 64%.
  • Not surprisingly, citizens’ negative perceptions of the country’s economic situation and their own living conditions are reflected in their assessments of government and leadership performance. o Large majorities say the government is performing “fairly badly” or “very badly” at keeping prices stable (87%), creating jobs (86%), narrowing income gaps (79%), improving the living standards of the poor (77%), and managing the economy (76%). o Only four in 10 Zimbabweans (41%) “approve” or “strongly approve” of the president’s job performance over the past 12 months, and even fewer (34%) give their member of Parliament a passing mark. Both ratings reflect substantial declines over the past decade.

Zimbabwe has been battling a protracted economic depression since the early 2000s. Rampant unemployment, persistent hyperinflation, and rising poverty levels have stifled the  growth of the economy and threaten to undermine political and social stability within the  country and the Southern Africa region (Chifamba, 2021; Mathekga, 2022; Matiashe, 2022).  

At his inauguration in 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to introduce radical  economic reforms to steer the country toward rapid recovery (Reuters, 2018), but this goal has proven elusive. According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, the country’s  annual inflation rate hit a high of 285% in August 2022, tripling from four months earlier (Africa  News, 2022; Hürriyet Daily News, 2022; Economy Next, 2022; BBC, 2023). Some industry leaders  and independent economists say that even such jaw-dropping numbers don’t reflect the  true extent of rapidly deteriorating economic conditions and rising prices for ordinary citizens (Masvingo Mirror, 2022; BBC, 2019).  

While some observers blame the country’s economic woes on the decades-long sanctions  imposed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, others criticise  the government’s poor economic management (Chifamba, 2021; Moyo-Nyede, 2021;  Institute for Security Studies, 2022). The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have aggravated  hardships as well (Chingono, 2021). 

What do ordinary Zimbabweans say about the direction of their country, their personal living  conditions, and their priorities for government action?  

Afrobarometer survey findings show that most Zimbabweans are pessimistic about the  country’s direction. Few anticipate that the economic situation will get better, and many  describe their personal living conditions as bad. Citizens give the government poor marks on  economic management and job creation – their top priorities for government action. 

Asafika Mpako

Asafika is the communications coordinator for Southern Africa

Simangele Moyo-Nyede

Simangele is a research officer Mass Public Opinion Institute